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The Constitution is Pre-9/11 Thinking

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Message Larry Sakin
In the two hundred and twenty years since our republic was formed, the Constitution has taken quite a few beatings. Considering the elitist group of landholders that formed the United States and how that elite class has ruled our nation since, it's amazing any of the tenants of this revered document have survived at all. However, there's been no period in history in which our freedoms have been threatened as they are today. Somehow, our current set of ruling elites believe that the Constitution as a whole can hang when it comes to the so-called global war on terrorism.

The most egregious example of this attitude is being "debated" in Congress as this item is being written. President George W. Bush has taken advantage of signing statements in an effort to free himself from the constraints of constitutional law and tell Congress that he has the ability to decide which laws he needs to follow and which ones he doesn't.

Signing statements have been used in the past by Presidents Bill Clinton, George HW Bush, and Ronald Reagan. The original intent of the signing statement was to give the president an opportunity to comment on law, give an opinion on how the law would impact the country as a whole. The use of a signing statement as a means to separate the President from his duty to uphold the laws of the land is not only unprecedented, it's also blatantly illegal.

Despite the views of many, President Bush is no fool. He understands that many of the actions his administration have taken since the 9/11 attacks are violations of federal, international, and military law. However, because the war on terrorism is such an oblique concept, Bush uses it to trump the duties that are inherent to the office he holds. He wants the world to believe that terrorists can only be defeated if he is free to do what he wants and more importantly, oppress those who question the veracity of his policies. This is among the reasons the Bush administration recently attacked the New York Times for their story on government surveillance of financial transactions. Even though these transactions were being monitored under a non-classified subpoena and the record was open to the public, the administration was angry over the publication of the story. In Bush's view, the press is supposed to cooperate with the executive and suppress its constitutional mandate to be a check on the government. Bush knows the media can be the lynchpin that destroys an executive that believes it's above the law.

So what we have is an outlaw executive bent on signing away any obligations he has to a Constitution he swore to uphold. And worse, there are legislators who defend Bush's flouting of the law. This development amazes me, because those legislators must know that when Bush falls, he's going to drag them right along with him. Bush has never taken responsibility for anything in his adult life-it's doubtful he'll bear the brunt of his heinous disregard for our laws alone.

It's difficult to say exactly how this situation is going to change. Many Americans want to see Bush impeached, even though that would require a great deal of effort without much change in how the administration proceeds without him. Others believe that a Democratic majority in Congress will limit further damage by the executive, although few democratic incumbents have expressed any difficulty with Bush's conduct. Without an intensive re-evaluation of how our system of checks and balances has become so muddled, there isn't much chance that our government will return to its pre-9/11 way of functioning. Otherwise, the terrorists Bush so stridently tries to defend against will have succeeded.
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Larry Sakin is a former non-profit medical organization executive and music producer. His writing can be found on Mytown.ca, Blogcritics, OpEd News, The People's Voice, Craig's List and The Progressive magazine. He also advocates for literacy and (more...)
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